- Lamb: We offer pasture-raised and pasture-finished lamb. Our sheep only get a handful of grain when we move them from one pasture to the next. We raise our Katahdin Hair Sheep with no antibiotics, no vaccines, and no hormones.
- Pork: We offer pasture-raised pork from our mixed herd of heritage breed pigs. We have diverse genetics including Berkshire, Gloucester Old Spots, American Guinea Hog, Kune Kune, Large Black, Mangalitsa, and Mulefoot. Here is a more in-depth article on our pigs.
- Chicken: We offer small numbers of organic-fed, pasture-raised whole broiler chickens ranging from 4-6 lbs each in the late Summer and early Autumn.
- Turkey: We offer small numbers of organic-fed, pasture-raised whole turkeys ranging from 18-28 lbs each in Autumn.
- Chicken Eggs: We offer small numbers of organic-fed, pasture-raised chicken eggs from our flock of mixed heritage breed chickens.
- Duck Eggs: We occasionally offer organic-fed, pasture-raised duck eggs from our small flock of Rouen Ducks.
Quality food is hard to find. I am not just referring to food that tastes good, nor am I just referring to “health” food. I am referring to food that is holistically beneficial for people and the land. I am talking about regenerative agriculture. In an ideal world, our food should be:
- Tasty and Nutrient Dense
- Ensure Animal Welfare
- Increase Biodiversity
- Healing for the Environment
This is a lofty goal, but I personally believe we can do this. And this is exactly what we are doing on our farm. Ultimately, our goal is to raise food that we would want to eat.
1. LOCAL We raise our animals on our farm in the north end of Greene County in the small town of Bulls Gap, TN, population 739. Our chickens and turkeys are processed on site, and our buyers pick up their birds from our freezers. That is what local agriculture is all about! Our pork and lamb are processed at a local, USDA inspected butcher.
2. TASTY AND NUTRIENT DENSE
Chickens and Turkeys
Our chickens and turkeys eat a number of food items each day. Commercial organic chicken feed, fresh grass, insects, worms, and other pasture creatures that chickens enjoy eating. The feed we use is produced by New Country Organics in Waynesboro, Virginia. It takes us 8 hours to go pick up this feed for our birds, but we feel strongly that the right feed is important for our poultry. The feed we use is Certified Organic, Soy-Free, and contains no GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms). Our feed contains Organic Kelp (a large species of seaweed) that contains over 70 different minerals. In addition, our feed also contains a number of fermentation products; these are beneficial bacteria that help the birds absorb and utilize all the vitamins and minerals in their diet. Here is the list of ingredients for the feed we use:
INGREDIENTS: Organic Field Peas, Organic Corn, Organic Wheat, Organic Oats, Organic Barley, Fish Meal, Organic Rice Bran, Organic Alfalfa Meal, Organic Flaxseed, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Silico Aluminate, Dried Organic Kelp, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, DL Methionine, Yeast Culture, Roughage Product (organic wheat middlings), Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Menadione Nicotinamide Bisulfite Complex, D-Calcium Pantothenic Acid, Niacin Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Dried Aspergillus oryzae Fermentation Extract, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Dried fermentation product of Lactobacillus acidophilus, Dried fermentation product of Lactobacillus casei, Dried fermentation product of Lactobacillus plantarum, Dried fermentation product of Enterococcus faecium, Dried fermentation product of Bacillus coagulans, Dried fermentation product of Bacillus licheniformis, and Dried fermentation product of Bacillus subtilis.
Despite the deceptive marketing of some poultry and egg producers, chickens and turkeys are not vegetarians; they are omnivores. They eat fresh grass, insects, worms, grubs, and any other bug or crawling thing that may cross their path. When chickens and turkeys eat a wide variety of food, like they were designed to do, and they eat food that is full of healthy proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, then their meat is significantly more nutrient dense than what you could ever find in a factory farm.
The result of this nutrient density is a superior tasting meat and eggs. Our egg whites stand up… not sure how else to describe this. Poorer quality egg whites spread out thin over the frying pan, but our egg whites stay tight next to the yolk. The yolk is a deep, orange-yellow and has a richer flavor, even in the Winter. Not everyone has as refined a palate to say that this egg has a superior taste to a store bought egg, although I think many do, especially with the yolk. This is best appreciated with poached or boiled eggs, as fried eggs flavor is blended with the oil or butter used for cooking. There is also a seasonality to eggs. Laying hens will decrease egg production in Winter. Also, with less fresh forage and insects, the yolks will be paler, although our eggs still have pretty bright yolks even in the Winter. Spring and Summer brings more eggs and deeper-colored yolks.
Older people will often remark how our chicken and turkey tastes how they remember it tasting when they grew up on a farm as a child. Not everyone has as refined a palate to say that this meat has a superior taste to a store bought chicken, although I think many do. If the meat is prepared in a curry or barbecue dish, it may be hard to differentiate, but almost everyone will remark how filling it is. There is a real reason for this. I believe a significant factor for the obesity epidemic in the U.S. is that our food is nutrient poor. Our bodies crave many nutrients, and so we end up taking in more calories to fill the nutrient deficit. We are nutrient deprived while being calorically overloaded. When our food is nutrient dense, our bodies don’t crave more calories, and we feel full sooner. Not a bad side effect for something that tastes so good!
Our sheep are raised and finished on pasture. Sheep are herbivores, and they were never designed to eat large amounts of grains. They can actually die if given too much grain too fast (grain poisoning). Many lamb producers feed grains on a regular basis because the animals do like it and the animals grow faster with it. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for them in large, regular amounts. With that said, our sheep do get a very small amount of grain, about a handful each, when they are moved from one pasture to the next. This little treat makes moving our animals an enjoyable and stress-free routine.
Our sheep are given free-choice, organic, kelp-based mineral and vitamin mix to provide minerals and trace minerals that may not be found in our pastures.
We raise Katahdin Hair Sheep. These sheep do not have wool which needs to be sheared. Instead they have a coat of hair that gets thick in the Winter and sheds in the Spring.
The meat from Katahdin Hair Sheep, especially when grass-fed and grass-finished, is relatively lean. I believe it is a combination of the breed and the grass-feeding that gives them a fantastic lamb flavor without too much gaminess that causes some people not to like lamb. I personally believe that grass-fed and grass-finished Katahdin lamb is some of the best lamb I have ever eaten. And I have personally eaten lamb around the world.
We are slowly growing our herd of heritage breed pigs including a wide variety of genetics from around the world. This includes Berkshire, Gloucester Old Spots, American Guinea Hog, Kune Kune, Large Black, Mangalitsa, and Mulefoot.
Our pigs are pasture-raised. That means they move to a fresh paddock every few days. And yes, pigs eat grass. In fact, they love it. Every time we rotate our pigs to a new pasture, the only sound we hear is the crunch of grass being eaten. As soon as the grass has been grazed, the pigs start rooting. Pigs love to root. They find all kinds of bugs and grubs and roots to eat. In addition, we supplement their diet with fermented grains. We use a variety of grains including barley, wheat, and rye, along with field peas. The grains are fermented for a few days which makes the grain considerably more digestible and makes the nutrients in the grains more bioavailable. The fermentation also provides good bacteria which improves their digestion. The peas, or any legume for that matter, provides a great source of lysine, an amino acid required for growth.
We do not feed any corn or soy to our pigs. We avoid corn because its just not a healthy feed. Corn is used to make a pig fat, but not healthy. In addition, corn changes the fat composition in the pig. Corn made fat is watery and lacks flavor. Fat in a pig that is not fed corn is more solid and flavorful. Soy is used because it is high in protein, which makes it a good feed. But it is very difficult to find non-genetically modified (i.e. GMO) soy, so we just avoid it.
The commercial pork industry has gone out of its way to make pork the “other white meat”, but that is a sham. Pork is not supposed to be bland. Pork is a red meat. It is supposed to have taste and real flavor.
What we are doing, between choosing heritage breed pigs that are not used in commercial pork production, to raising our pigs on pasture with quality feed, results in pork that actually tastes the way pork is supposed to taste!
3. PURE Here is a list of things we DO NOT USE at any point when raising our animals:
- Synthetic Chemicals
- Any Medications
- Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) (commonly used in feed)
- Soy Products
- We do not use any feed containing corn with our pigs
Here is what we DO USE:
- Organic Certified Feed for our chickens, turkeys, and ducks
- Fresh Pasture on a regular basis. Our broilers (meat chickens) are moved to fresh pasture twice a day!
- Clean Water
- Fresh Air
4. ENSURE ANIMAL WELFARE Our chickens live in mobile pens that are moved to a new section of pasture twice a day. Our turkeys, pigs, and sheep are moved to new pastures every couple of days. Not only does this give them increased nutrition (see above), but it allows them to scratch and peck and root in the grass and soil, hunt insects and worms and grubs, bask in the sun or sit in the shade as they like. Our chickens get to be chickens! Our turkeys get to be turkeys! Our sheep get to be sheep! Our pigs get to be pigs! We also need to be forthright: we are raising these animals for food. But that doesn’t mean a food animal has to live in poor conditions. We can ensure that our animals are treated with respect through their entire life.
NOTE: PASTURE-RAISED CHICKENS ARE NOT THE SAME AS FREE-RANGE CHICKENS! According to one definition: “Birds raised for meat may be sold as “free-range” if they have government certified access to the outdoors. The door may be open for only five minutes and the farm still qualifies as “free-range.” Apart from the “open door,” no other criteria such as environmental quality, number of birds, or space per bird, are included in the term “free-range.” A government official said: “Places I’ve visited may have just a gravel yard with no alfalfa or other vegetation.”
5. INCREASE BIODIVERSITY By not using any synthetic chemicals on our pastures and forests, we are allowing natural ecosystems the chance to recover. We are using a whole farm management system that will not only preserve the species currently on the farm, but will increase the number of species living on our farm. Our long term vision includes plans for native wildflowers, native pollinators, and improving and creating bird, bat, and beneficial insect habitat. In less than 2 years on our farm, we are already seeing a return of dung beetles, spiders, praying mantises, ladybugs, frogs, and salamanders!
6. HEALING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT By working with natural systems and patterns, instead of against them, we can push the recovery process into a regenerative process. Our farm will produce cleaner air, water, and soil while raising nutrient dense, humane, and delicious food. That is how regenerative agriculture works!